Roundtable: 4th Annual IIHF Girls’ Hockey Weekend – Assessing the state of the game

Roundtables are an occasional feature on Hockey in Society. Roundtables will present brief commentaries from Hockey in Society contributors on pressing or timely issues within hockey and its culture, with the aim of presenting a diverse range of critical viewpoints on the topic under discussion.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is hosting its fourth annual Girls’ Hockey Weekend this weekend (which, coincides with the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child), a weekend designed to expose girls and women to *ahem* the greatest game on earth! ( I might be a little biased). The IIHF encourages teams, clubs, and organizations to find a way to draw more girls to the game whether it be through autograph sessions, practice sessions, or off-ice activities. You can check out the official (pink) website here: Girls’ Hockey Weekend. This is the first time that we at Hockey in Society have ever heard of the Girls’ Hockey Weekend, so we thought it would be appropriate to use the opportunity to offer an assessment on the current state of women’s hockey, both in Canada and globally.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 8.32.40 PMThere are two recent events that show promising signs for the growth of women’s hockey. First, is Sportsnet’s new agreement with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League to broadcast the league’s playoff games from the Clarkson Cup and “at least one special event to be announced in early October.” This agreement is slated for the next four years and it has also earned the CWHL space on the website (sportsnet.ca) for game scores. The second exciting recent event for women’s hockey is that the Anaheim Ducks invited, US Olympic team member, Hillary Knight to skate in practice. This was the first time that a female non-goalie has ever practiced with an NHL team. However, despite these two newsworthy developments, it is still important to recognize that women’s hockey still has a long way to go. The Sportsnet agreement will show three playoff games. This is certainly better than nothing but it also doesn’t seem like a huge commitment on Sportsnet’s part. Also, this will be the first time that CWHL scores will be shown on the website. FIRST TIME! The fact that a national sportscaster has waited until 2014 to add “professional” women’s hockey scores on the ticker is less than exciting. And, I put the word professional in quotations because the women of the CWHL are unable to support themselves from their hockey careers and are forced to have other jobs. Plus, there this snappy list of “10 reasons why the NHL should commit to women’s pro hockey before expanding the men’s game (again)” floating around the Internet, which further highlights the gap between the men’s and women’s games. Moreover, Anaheim Ducks’ coach, Bruce Boudreau was apparently pleasantly surprised with Knight’s skill at practice because he has never seen a women’s hockey game live and didn’t realize that “they were that good”. I don’t know what is more sad: the fact that he has never felt it worth his time to watch women’s hockey, or that there has probably been few opportunities for him to take in a live game. Either way, I think Boudreau’s experience (as someone who lives the game) is telling.

One last example I will contribute to the discussion here is how Warrior (equipment company) fails to recognize women as either a valuable or viable market demographic and that they have faced zero consequences for their misogynistic stance. Warrior feels that it is unnecessary to serve the female demographic, which from a consumer standpoint isn’t that big a of a deal, but from a social perspective is reflective and reproductive of the lack of value afforded to women’s hockey. Lululemon has faced both social and financial backlash for not valuing any person that the company deems overweight but they essentially continue business as normal because, while consumers don’t appreciate size discrimination, the stigmatization of obesity remains a prevalent ideology. Similarly, I think that many people may think even though Warrior’s stance on female consumers is rude and outdated, it is situated as poor business practice rather than a reproduction of unequal power relations that manifest beyond the store shelves. Unless an NHL player publicly chastises Warrior and drops them as a sponsor, very little will happen. Even then, they might not give a flying #uck. And as long as companies such as Warrior are not forced to change their ways, or collapse entirely, their very existence affirms the notion that women’s hockey is of little value. While it is exciting to see initiatives such as the Girls’ Hockey Weekend and players like Knight skating with the big boys, we still have a long way to go. Should we find it encouraging or discouraging to know that most other women’s sports are in the exact same fight?

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Weekly Links: Reaction to Rogers’ NHL broadcast mega-deal; CWHL to be broadcast on Sportsnet; OHL launches mental health initiative; and more

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!

  • Please check out our first of two posts on women’s hockey this week, which are using the IIHF’s Girls’ Hockey Weekend as an opportunity to discuss issues for women in hockey culture. The second piece will appear later this weekend. [Hockey in Society]
  • James Bradshaw takes an in-depth look at the 12-year mega-deal signed by Rogers for NHL broadcast rights, and how it will affect the Hockey Night in Canada programming and viewing experience. [The Globe and Mail]
  • Meanwhile, if you can get past the shameless self-promotion of Rogers, this Michael Grange piece gives some interesting insight into the company’s planned innovations for its broadcasts. [Sportsnet]
  • Katie Flynn has an excellent critique of the exclusion of many qualified women from the Rogers broadcast team – definitely a must read. [Pension Plan Puppets]
  • Clare Austen was frustrated by an interview with US hockey star Hilary Knight, who recently practiced with the Anaheim Ducks, which was posted on Puck Daddy. She critiques the substance of the interview and poses a series of questions that would provide deeper insight into issues and opportunities in women’s hockey. [Puckology]
  • Some small but important steps for the CWHL this year, as Sportsnet has signed on to broadcast the Clarkson Cup playoffs and an as-yet-to-be-named special event. [Sportsnet]
  • Unfortunately for women in NCAA hockey, there is no such TV deal for their competitions. Eric Burton explores why this is the case and argues for it change. [The Hockey Writers]

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IIHF’s “Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend”: A Chance to Reflect on Barriers and Opportunities for Women in Hockey Culture

The International Ice Hockey Federation is celebrating its fourth annual Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend this coming weekend. The event is designed to raise the profile of women’s hockey globally and to offer participation opportunities for girls, especially those who have never played. From the IIHF:

The World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend is a global opportunity for girls to try out hockey as a new sport. Thousands of participants took part in the editions in 2011, 2012 and 2013. . . . It is an opportunity for girls of all ages to try ice hockey. We are looking for hosts all around the world to bring girls from their community together on the ice.

This certainly seems like a noble initiative by the IIHF, although it is certainly debatable to what extent such efforts will close the very significant gender gap that exists between men and women when it comes to their experience as hockey players, fans, or even media members. One way in which this may prove to be a positive initiative is that it provides a prominent and public platform through which to foster dialogue about the opportunities for, barriers against, and experiences of women in hockey.

One of the fantastic consequences of the widespread adoption of new media technologies has been the democratiziation of media production – and, in the case of hockey media, this has meant the emergence of new voices that have challenged traditional narratives, entrenched members of the mainstream media, and long-held ways of understanding the sport. It has also meant that hundreds of women, who were barely represented in hockey media, have had a public platform to demonstrate their brilliant insights about the sport, celebrate their fandom, and – perhaps most importantly – to highlight the many ways in which women continue to be marginalized, excluded, and ignored in various facets of hockey culture. There are too many pieces to link, but highlights include insights into to learning to play hockey in a physically aggressive manner, commentary on the lack of opportunity for elite women players, strong critique of CBC’s disastrous “While the Men Watch” broadcast in 2012 (here, here, and here), and criticism of gimmicky attempts to market the sport to women fans. The work of these bloggers has, I believe, helped create space for male allies to criticize sexism and misogyny in hockey culture and to call on all actors – including fans, media, teams, and leagues – to do better when it comes to gender equality.

It is in this spirit that, with the IIHF’s Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend upcoming, Hockey in Society will be running two pieces this week to offer diverse perspectives on women’s hockey in Canada and around the world. This blog has made women’s hockey a major area of focus since its inception, and is currently in the process of recruiting more female writers to broaden the diversity of voices represented on the site. Later in the week, we will run a new Hockey in Society Roundtable featuring insights from female bloggers, academics, and players about women’s and girls’ hockey. Meanwhile, in this initial post I have collected together some of the many pieces about women’s hockey and the role of women in hockey culture that have been posted here since Hockey in Society launched three years ago. If you missed them the first time around, I encourage you to check out some of the past pieces on these topics.

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Weekly Links: NHL playoff violence; IIHF re-launches a European Champions League; NHL expansion speculation; and more

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!

  • The series between the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers is getting violent, with Brandon Prust earning a suspension for breaking Derek Stepan’s jaw with an illegal check and Dan Carcillo getting a 10-game suspension for aggression against a linesman while trying to get after Prust. Ken Campbell weighs in by criticizing the NHL for its disciplinary standards tacit condoning of violence: “The NHL and its culture of violence is every bit as culpable for all of this as the perpetrators were.” [The Hockey News]
  • Despite (or bolstered by?) the violence that characterizes seemingly every NHL playoffs, TV ratings in the US are doing well. [Puck Daddy]
  • Interesting read about advanced stats in hockey compared to the power of narratives to shape perception. Definitely worth a read. [Puckology]

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Weekly Links: Hockey growth in the US and abroad; Belarus regime continues to face protests; Racism in hockey; NHL to introduce new tracking technology; and more

 

Source: Edmonton Oil Kings

Source: Edmonton Oil Kings

 

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!

  • Congratulations to the Edmonton Oil Kings on winning the Ed Chynoweth Cup! [Cult of Hockey]
  • An international group of artists published a public letter, urging players at the World Championships in Belarus to support the protest movement against dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who they argue is using the tournament to legitimize his regime. [The Guardian]
  • Harrison Mooney looks at the way black NHL players like PK Subban and Evander Kane are treated by the NHL, the media and the fan community. [Puck Daddy]
  • Over the past five years, participation in ice hockey in the US has grown 5.1%. [FiveThirtyEight]

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Weekly Links: P.K. Subban targeted by racist Tweets; Larry Kwong honoured at Hall of Fame; Shifts in body-checking since the 1970s; and more

Welcome to Hockey in Society’s Weekly Links post. This feature highlights articles or blog entries that are related to Hockey in Society’s areas of interest and that may be of interest to the site’s readers. Please check out some of the great writing that is happening in the hockey media and blogosphere!

  • Larry Kwong is considered to be the first man of colour to play in the NHL, having suited up for one shift with the New York Rangers in the 1947-48 season. He is being honoured by having a jersey from his days with the Nanaimo Clippers displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame. [Color of Hockey]
  • Avi Goldberg on notable issues surrounding Twitter during the NHL and NBA playoffs, including  a discussion of reaction to Ron Maclean’s comments about French Canadian referees on Hockey Night in Canada and the dangerous play of the Minnesota Wild’s Matt Cooke. [The Barnstormer]
  • PK Subban of the Montreal Canadiens was the target of racist tweets by Boston Bruins fans following Game 1 of the teams’ series, and his response to them has earned him praise from fans and journalists. [Habs Eyes on the Prize]
  • Nick Cotsonika discusses the cultural significance of the Canadiens in Montreal and the passion of their fans. [Yahoo Sports!]

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“Don’t Play With the Dictator”: Politics and the 2014 World Hockey Championships in Belarus (Repost)

Editor’s note: This piece was originally posted on Hockey in Society on October 14, 2013. It was also published by Left Hook Journal on October 20, 2013. With the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation’s Men’s World Hockey Championships kicking off today in Belarus, we are reposting this article as it is still a highly relevant reminder of the political controversies and power struggles going on behind the scenes of this hockey tournament.

Sporting mega-events such as the FIFA World Cup and the Olympic Games, despite claims by their organizers and boosters about the political neutrality of sport, are deeply enmeshed in political structures. In recent months, a number of these high profile events have drawn the ire of political activists, citizens, and some media precisely because of their political implications. Consider the following examples:

Each of these examples highlights some of the ways that sport is enmeshed in, and can contribute to, unequal power relations between individuals and groups in various societies around the world. Thankfully, sport mega-events are increasingly coming under public scrutiny and are having their politics examined in the press. However, there are many other examples of sport contributing to social injustice that are happening on a smaller scale. One such event, which has gained relatively little media attention (especially in North America), is the upcoming 2014 Men’s World Hockey Championships in Belarus.

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